Premier Andrew Furey says he wouldn’t rule out returning to one of the roles that has defined his life for the past 10 years, even while he is in public office.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said Tuesday, Aug. 17, when asked if he would consider going on a Team Broken Earth mission to Haiti if one comes together in the near future.
Furey handed the reins of the charity to Dr. Arthur Rideout last year when he become premier, but said he sees no reason why he couldn’t return as a surgeon to once again help Haitians who are dealing with the aftermath of another major earthquake.
“This is not something I’d be jumping into for a photo op,” he said, when asked how he would answer criticism of such a move. “I’m not interested in a photo op. I’m interested in helping people who I dedicated a quarter of my life helping.”
Furey said he still has long-standing relations with colleagues in the region. Team Broken Earth has already arranged for doctors to gain access to vital equipment they have stored at a hospital in Port-au-Prince, and a team from the University of Miami is on the scene helping with the crisis.
“I spent over a decade volunteering in Port-au-Prince and around the country in Haiti, and obviously have incredible friendships and colleagues on the ground there, so I’m incredibly concerned and heartbroken about the most recent earthquake,” he said.
Haiti's hospitals have been swamped with thousands of injured residents since a devastating earthquake Saturday, Aug. 14, killed about 1,300 people.
The 7.2-magnitude quake — higher than the 2010 earthquake that flattened parts of the capital city of Port-au-Prince — was centred in the southwestern region of the country and destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings.
The death toll is expected to rise, but not come anywhere near the more than 200,000 people killed in 2010.
The country is also still in shock after the assassination last month of President Jovenal Moïse in a brazen daylight attack on his home.
Furey said the strong character of the Haitian people is one of the things that kept repeatedly drawing him and other team members to the country.
“It’s what kept you going back,” he said. “There is a true, deep sense of resilience, a sense of family, a sense of hope and optimism for a better tomorrow despite the turmoil and tumultuous political history of the place. You could see it in people’s eyes, you could feel it in interactions. Everybody believes that tomorrow could be better.”
Furey said the early response is crucial when an earthquake hits.
“In a disaster like this, unfortunately, patients are going to die of neurological injuries and head injuries and abdominal injuries because of the chaos that exists in the immediate impact,” he said.” But they’re not necessarily going to die of broken bones immediately.”
But time is still of the essence.
“Often times the bone is poked through the skin. That is not always an immediate threat to life, but it is a threat to life if not dealt with,” he said.
“There is a significant amount of orthopedic and musculoskeletal triage that occurs after a disaster like this.”
A team from Newfoundland and Labrador was scheduled to begin a tour of duty in Haiti on Tuesday, but all trips have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, a spokesperson for Team Broken Earth said.
However, Furey thinks that won’t last long.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a (Newfoundland) team coming to Haiti to help in the very near future.”
Team Broken Earth (brokenearth.ca) has spawned volunteer chapters across Canada, as well as the U.S. and the U.K. Its outreach has expanded to include several other countries, including Bangladesh and Nicaragua.
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram